My first interview in the tete a tete section is with Archana( name changed). Archana was in an abusive marriage for twelve years which almost destroyed her. One day something snapped in her and Archana decided to take charge of her life . It took every bit of courage she had and more to walk out to walk out with just her two kids and nothing else to call her own. Its nothing short of her miracle how she managed to turn the tables around. . Today she is a lawyer and one of the leading women’s rights activists. She gives counselling to many bruised and battered women she comes across everyday and takes on their cases pro bono. “It was a long and hard journey, studying, earning my bread and bringing up my kids but its been worth every minute of it” is how she puts it. Salute to Archana who put her and her children’s sanity and well being first without caring about what anyone would say or think. She did not let her terrible past destroy her but instead she let all the negativity become the fuel the fire that drove her to become the successful woman she is today. Here is her story which I am sure will be an inspiration to many women who are caught in similar situations.
With stars in her eyes and a wide smile Archana walked shyly towards the Mandap. She saw at Rahul standing there looking dapper in his black Sherwani and her heart skipped a beat. He looked so handsome and she couldn't have been more in love with him. The wedding was a beautiful and she the perfect blushing bride. She was marrying the man of her dreams and the happiness that was radiating from her was there for every one to see. Little did she know the wedding was the only beautiful thing she would remember for a long time as she watched helplessly everything around her just turn ugly. How could she even imagine that the man of her dreams would turn her life into a living nightmare. She suffered through the hands of her abusive husband and in laws for almost twelve years till one day her husband went to far and she decided enough was enough. Something snapped within her and unleashed reserves of courage buried deep within her, which even she did not know of.
Me: You were very happy when you got married and immediately moved to Dubai. When did you start noticing things were amiss??
Archana: Yes, like any other newly wed I was was looking forward to a happy and idyllic married life and landed in Dubai very happy and excited. But just two days into my marriage I was was shocked when my husband ripped me off in front of my in laws and few other relatives for something so trivial I dont remember what it was . What I do remember how hurt and shocked I was especially also because and nobody came to my defence. The sad part for me is that inspite of publicly humiliating me, he was least apologetic. I remember I cried myself to sleep that night and he didn’t even sleep in the room that night. This was just the second day of my marriage and my hopes had really come crashing down.
Me: You mean you could feel things going wrong that early into the marriage?
Archana: Yes, imagine being in a foreign country where you dont know anybody. Your husband has acted in a manner that does not inspire any confidence. So,with nobody at all to offer me comfort or solace or any advise I was scared of them. My fear made me fall victim to my “families” sadistic and cruel behaviour. They were mean to me, treated me like a glorified maid. After the incident with my husband I was made to sit down and given a big lecture on my “bad” behaviour They told me blatantly that now that I was married my sole aim was to “look after my in laws and husband”. My father in law woke up early so whatever time I slept I had to be awake to give him tea at 5am. Even though they had servants but it was MY DUTY. It was one of the long list of duties was given to me. Going out and enjoying as a newly wed couple was not on the cards. Once in a while my husband did take me out but other than that I was more or less confined to the house doing my DUTIES.
Me: Your mother in law being a woman did not show any support or concern for you?
Me: My mother in law was the ruler of the house. Her word was authority and both my husband and my father in law dare not cross her path. This i came to know very soon. She did all the shopping and very benevolently handed me some toiletries or a new suit once in a while. Never even once did she ask me to accompany her anywhere. In the initial months, she never got me anything as i was a newly married girl who had a good trousseau, what could I possibly need? Fed up of being in wedding finery, wanting some casuals, I asked her if I could buy some clothes to wear in the house. What followed that day and God forbid any other day I ever demanded something or said something my in laws didn’t like….heaven help me.. The in laws would not speak to me the whole day and in the evening, once my husband returned there would be a conference and I would be made to stand there while my in laws went on and on about what a ill mannered, badly brought up girl I was. In short my in laws were the authority on good behaviour, manners and every thing when in fact they were just the opposite. Rahul never asked me about my side of the story, instead joined in with them agreeing I was a stupid woman with no brains and shouted and humiliated me in front of them while they watched smirking. They made me feel completely worthless.
Me: I am sure it must have been too much for you. Why did you put up with this kind of behaviour?
Archana: During this period my father developed some health problems and I didn’t have the heart to tell my parents anything. I did not know anybody in dubai as making friends or going out of the house was out of the question, no one I could share my problems with or ask what I should do!! To top it all soon I got pregnant. Once I was pregnant, I just had to grin and bear it. I didn’t feel like I had too many options. I was too weak to take a stand. I let the three of them bully me into submissiveness. Never knowing what I done, when it was going to happen or why all this was even happening to me. Always kept me wondering why I was going through the pain and if it was ever going to stop. As a young female I understand now how it feels to be trapped literally and mentally by an abusive man.I was scared to face the social ostracism, the looks, the talks, the gossip and the stigma of being a divorcee.
Me: When you were pregnant or after you had your baby did anything change at all? Didn’t having a child bring you and Rahul closer?
Archana: No, not at all. I was ill treated even during my pregnancies. Time passed, I had not one but two kids almost one after the other but my husband’s and in laws behaviour only got worse. They took over the children completely as well. From the clothes to little-little things the kids needed, everything was decided by my MIL. my opinion didn’t even matter even for my kids. They showed me in every possible way that they were a unit and I was an outsider. Rahul sat with them the minute he returned from office till he was ready to seep. Come in the bedroom, plonk himself on the bed and be snoring within seconds. Rahul and me never had any conversations. Only time we spoke to each other was when we fought or when he was shouting at me. The three of them would misbehave blatantly and if I said anything at all….heavens would fall. It was like they would stab me and then get angry with me for bleeding. Some nights I used to sit and cry and wonder what the hell was my fault in the whole mess. My only fault was that I was born a girl.i was an out cast in my own house. The worst thing was when they verbally abused me all the time. By now I was so brain washed that I thought I deserved what I got. The more the lies were poured over me, the I more I believed that it was true. All of the horrible names, all the horrible descriptions of who I was.
Me:It must have been so difficult to live in such a horrible situation. What were the repercussions on your well being, your health? How did you manage to keep going?
Archana: Living with constant stress and criticism took its toll on me. Once a I was a bright, intelligent and vivacious girl and now I’d become a mere shadow of my former self. I started feeling anxious. The sight of the three of them together used to give me palpitations. I used to be in constant fear or whats going to happen today. What are they going to find offensive today, whats going to trigger the fight now. I was angry, I was unhappy. I had a lot of repressed anger within me. I cried a lot and it was no surprise that I started feeling I was going mad. I wanted to run away or worse at times kill my self. It was my two babies who are the love of my life who kept me going. I know I owed it to them to try and stay sane, strong and fight. Every time I held them and cuddled them, it was like putting balm on my wounded soul. They gave me the strength to survive each day at a time.
Me: You mention that once your kids started school you felt things took a turn for the better??
Archana: Yes, Once the kids started school things got a little better as I had to do the pick up and drop. I went for driving classes. Learnt how to drive. That gave me wings. I started meeting people at school. It was like a complete change of scene for me. I had to attend various meetings at school where I started making friends and soon I had a few very close friends.(Not that I could share this with anyone at home). Good friends really do enrich your life. Things were definitely looking better. My husband also stated a new project around the same time and he started travelling. Being away from each other was very good for both of us. When he would be away for 10-12 days I would actually miss him. When he came back, he was quite amorous, which he hadn’t been in a long time and I felt the animosity between us lessen. I started hoping for a better future, of being happy. Destiny how ever had other plans.
Me: Destiny had other plans? That does not sound good at all!! What happened?
Archana: The good period continued for a few months and i guess it was foolishness on my part that I started hoping. When hopes and hearts break there is no noise but the devastation can ravage your entire being. One day quite by chance I found proof of Rahul’s infidelity. I would be too embarrassed to elaborate more. All i can say that it there was no scope for any doubt. I had the evidence. I then started noticing many little things that further confirmed the worst. One evening i over heard him talking to HER, the love and passion i felt in his voice were my undoing. My world started crumbling around me. It was not enough that he had treated me so badly even though I was his wife, he was now wooing another woman. I was the one he should have loved and taken care of. To think a man is incapable of love is another thing but to know he CHOOSE to treat you like this, was too much for me to bear. I just could not get over the fact that he had deprived me of the love, the tenderness and attentionI should have got being his wife, he could so freely give it to another. It was an all consuming rage that engulfed me and was destroying me from the inside.
Me: Did you confront him?
Archana: No I could not, I didn’t have the guts. I just started distancing myself. I withdrew from all of them. Reversely this also gave me some internal courage. When he shouted at me, I was not scared anymore. This was new for all three of them and I could see the three of them having lots of discussions but I completely distanced myself, devoting all my energies to my kids. Yet again he took it up a notch, began getting angry at small things and behaved in frightening ways — throwing things at me, breaking plates and glasses. I went back to the whimpering weak me. We were back to being nothing more than house mates. I slept in the kids room more often than not and he couldn’t care less. With so much happening it was no surprise I had a few psychological issues and I was diagnosed with depression. Instead of taking care of me, my so called family made snide remarks about me being “mad”. One day when I was particularly low I took off for a long walk and lost track of time. I just kept crying and waking for how long I also didn’t know. I had left my phone home so I was unreachable. I reached home to find all three of them fuming. Rahul had returned from office and he was livid because I had dared to just take off without telling anyone. I tried to walk past him and go to my room. he grabbed me by the arm and said something derogatory about me being out of the house with some one. I just said ” Shut up Rahul and leave me alone.” Thats it and in the next second I felt the felt the first blow right across my face, in front of everyone the kids, the servants and the inlaws he just hit me. Then another to my other side and when I fell down he kicked me but i think after the second blow I passed out. When I came to, I was lying in the same position on the floor. With a lot of difficulty I went to the bathroom and sobbed uncontrollably when she saw what he had done to me. That’s when I decided to take charge of my life and that I had to do it today. I spent the night awake, trembling, shattered, yet very clearly plotting my escape. It was over between me and them.
Me: So it was a moment of complete clarity. Didn’t you have any doubts at all?
Archana: No surprisingly I was very clear. I just could not bring up my kids in an environment where it was okay to hit and abuse women. Neither did I want my son to think it was ok to hit women nor could I let my daughter grow up seeing her mother battered and bruised. Next morning I got up as usual and dropped my kids to school. After dropping the kids to school. I went to the hospital and got my medical done. As per my plan I needed proof that I’d been assaulted. My friend who took a little time to get over the shock she got when she saw me in this state, promised to stand by me in whatever I’d decided. My next step was to find a way to get my passports and arrange some cash to book tickets to and just run to India. . Somehow when you have a clarity of purpose I think God helps us. Bless my dear friends who arranged everything. To my good luck it didn’t strike my husband i would do something like this and he didn’t hide the passports. I couldn’t have left without my kids. We drove to school picked up the kids right then in the middle of their class, drove to the airport. To my good luck a flight was leaving in 1 hour and tickets were available. This whole time my heart was beating so fast, i am surprised i didn’t get a heart attack. I started breathing a little easier once we boarded the flight. I had been very scared my husband would suspect something and come and take the kids away or worst still send me to jail for trying to run away with the kids. We left Dubai and that was it.I severed all my connections with them.
Me: Hats off to you Archana. I am sure none of this would have been easy for you. Yet you showed incredible courage considering the difficult circumstances. What happened once you reached India?
Archana: I told you something had changed inside, I was very clear of what i was going to do next. I reached home and told my family everything. They were very supportive. The very next day I approached a lawyer and filed a case against my husband and in laws. I got another medical done in India to prove that I had been battered. Just escaping from them gave me a sense of Euphoria. I felt alive. When I woke up the first morning, I woke up with a start. My eyes went to the clock and when I saw it was 10′ o clock I freaked out. Then I remembered where i was and I felt so happy, so free. I had not felt like this in a long long time. In a the next day couple of days itself, I enrolled myself into law school. Got my kids provisional admission into a school in the neighbourhood. The fact that I could take my own decisions was exhilarating. Not having to live in dread, not having to walk on egg shells anymore, not having to think twenty times before saying anything was the best feeling I had experienced in a very long time. You cannot image how liberated i felt,I felt like a prisoner who had just been released out of jail. The first time I laughed after coming back the sound was alien to my own ears. I loved the sound of me and my children laughing and frolicking. I felt ALIVE and happy. Even the looming divorce and the long battle ahead didn’t put a damper on my feelings. The old me was peeping from where I’d been burried long ago. I had a long way to go but the most important thing I had begun.
Me: Its been five years since you walked away. How would you describe your life today? Did you ever regret your decision at all.
Archana: Without even having to think the first answer that comes to my mind to describe my life today is that I am happy. More than the fact that I have a career or money, its having the luxury of living my life the way I want to that is so exhilarating. I look forward to my work, to being able to help someone. I am proud that I am doing something constructive with my life. My children have a much better upbringing from a confident and smart mother rather than a scared and unhappy one. The very fact that I dont have to live in accordance to somebody’s idea of what my life should be is fantastic and I could have never lived my life the way I wanted to if I’d stayed in my marrige.
No i never regretted my decision at all. After being in an unhealthy relationship and suffering on account of what others thought of me I have learned that if a relationship is hard, if it’s stressful, and if it takes a lot of energy and effort to try to make it work, you have to let it go, for the sake of your own sanity . Today i feel that if a relationships doesn’t make you a better person, if it doesn’t challenge you to grow and evolve into a happier and more loving human being, it is not worth holding on to. If a relationship makes you bitter and unhappy like i always felt during my marrige, but not better, then you are in the wrong one.
Me: Thank you so much Archana for sharing your story with us for which I am indebted to you. I am sure your positivity and courage will inspire many women. Any advise you would like to give the ladies going through similar situations?
Many women suffering domestic abuse feel they lack the appropriate support to enable them to positively alter their situation, but having finally taken steps to free myself and my children from repeated ongoing abuse I know it is possible. It is possible to overcome your fear and bring about a change in your life. What you have to realise id that its not going to be easy. You will have to reach deep into yourself to find the courage to fight. If you dont want to walk out stay there but dont get bullied, fight back and make them respect you. Everyone has the right to live in dignity in their own home, free from fear of violence or harm. Dont think you are alone or think yourself any less for having problems. Contrary to what you will be made to believe any of this is not your fault. Don’t be afraid ask for help, even if you have to swallow your pride. Believe in yourself, don’t give up and use the chance to change your destiny, although it may seem difficult. Its your life at the end of the day and its worth fighting for.